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Mike Marcellin

Making Network Decisions Today for an SDN Tomorrow

by Juniper Employee ‎05-01-2013 09:00 AM - edited ‎04-30-2013 10:23 AM

The way that networks are being built is changing. Server virtualization, overlay networking, and virtualized services in the network are  redefining the network. And maybe the most exciting opportunity – SDN – has the potential to accelerate change for the better, providing a much more agile IT infrastructure.  As organizations look to the future and the potential that SDN brings, they still need to make decisions to solve today’s challenges – Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), data center consolidation and convergence, WAN utilization – and so how do they invest today while ensuring they protect their network investment for the future and can respond to these exciting changes when the time is right.  


At Juniper, our commitment to customers is that we will help you take advantage of the best technologies to evolve your networks at the right pace for your business and that we will provide investment protection so that whatever the future holds, you won’t have stranded capital.  To that end, there are some guiding principles that customers can use today, regardless of where they are in the SDN adoption curve, to maximize their network investment. We believe that simple, modular architectures provide better performance, that programmable systems allow you to meet future requirements and that the network should not limit how you implement components such as orchestration, overlay networks, and SDN controllers.


Simple, Modular Architectures Are Always Better

When SDN reaches its promise it will be critical to have agile and simple network architecture. If your core network devices can’t meet the challenge of future requirements you will be starting over and that won’t be good on your balance sheet, to your users, or your team. It will also starve you of resources you need to innovate in your core business. The network doesn’t get any simpler than a design with one switch to manage and any-to-any connectivity; this is what we call a true fabric architecture. Here’s what to look for as you’re evaluating your data center networking decisions today:


  1. A flat, any-to-any architecture with one logical switch to manage - regardless of the size of your data center deployment. A simplified network architecture matters because your multi-tiered web enabled applications rely on the throughput, and lower latency of a fabric to deliver the best end-user experience.  And even in an SDN world, you don’t want to provision, manage, and troubleshoot dozens or hundreds of devices.
  2. A robust Layer 3 implementation in the fabric – Layer 3 is better than Layer 2 for flexibility in adjusting to topology changes, for efficiency in converged networks, and for working around network outages.
  3. A holistic approach to network services including security – both physical and virtual – that uses high performance systems for throughput and survivability, deft software management (cloud approaches) and service chaining to optimize the security posture.

Programmable Systems Protect your Future

Programmable systems allow you to engage with multiple orchestration systems, use multiple SDN protocols, and get the best from technology today and tomorrow. There are a number of protocols that are emerging as standards – OpenFlow, VXLAN, NVGRE, and PCE to name a few.  Each has specific strengths. You want to be able to use any or all of them for what they do best. And frankly, we don’t know which ones will “win the day” as SDN evolves.  So you want to look at your network elements and ensure that they have current or committed support for a variety of protocols and that adding new and yet-to-be-developed protocols in the future won’t require a painful swap out of your hardware.  To make this possible your network architecture should support you with elements such as:


  1. Programmable network platforms with high logical scale (e.g.: Juniper’s EX9200 switches and MX Series routers) that can handle the demands of terminating high volumes of connections and that run a common operating system that has been built to solve hard problems to enable you to deploy solutions broadly.
  2. Programmable ASICs (e.g.: Trio from Juniper) that can provide the level of performance and power efficiency needed along with extensible programmability to work seamlessly with topology-aware protocols like OpenFlow, PCE, and BGP.
  3. Systems should be flexible enough to support Network Function Virtualization and leverage the cloud wherever possible.
  4. Your network OS should support direct programmability as well as multiple SDN protocols and interfaces to provide the maximum flexibility including:  OpenFlow, VXLAN, NVGRE, PCE, OpenStack plug-ins.
  5. Systems should provide analytics that expose critical data and insight to tools that can use the data to tune the network. This is critical as you think about harnessing big data to focus the Enterprise business or to drive new Service Provider revenue opportunities.

The Network Should Not Force Your Hand on Other Important IT Decisions

Potentially the biggest mistake you could make with a promising new technology is to lock yourself in before you know what will be right for you in the longer term. As you’re making decisions now, you can optimize how your network will play with your current infrastructure, or you can optimize for what you think shows promise for the future.  Would you rather be able to choose a path that does both? For this to happen you need to maintain as much flexibility as possible. Here are some considerations.


  1. If you use VMWare, Juniper has a compelling solution, from a jointly developed application to manage physical and virtual resources in Junos Virtual Control, to committed support for virtual network protocols like VXLAN and gateway solutions to provide an on-ramp between physical and virtual networks. 
  2. If you’re in the OpenStack camp, you’ll want integration with your networking equipment so that you can automate critical infrastructure configuration tasks like assigning ports and VLANs, so Juniper has integrated with OpenStack to provide the functionality that you will need.
  3. If you’re a fan of some of the OpenFlow controllers such as NOX, or BigSwitch’s Floodlight, we have OpenFlow on our switches and routers and have validated interoperability with some of the leading OpenFlow controllers over the past year.
  4. If you want a complete solution for an overlay network, you won’t have to wait long for our Contrail controller, which will work hand-in-hand with our Junos Space Network Management suite, as well as our routing, switching, and security hardware.

We Are In It for the Long Run Together

At Juniper we make investments for the long run, just like you do. We want to ensure that your investment with Juniper will allow your network to serve your organization well into the future. We want to ensure that you can use the best protocols and that your network will support the emerging technologies that you choose, such as overlay networks and SDN. We want to ensure that your network will provide the performance and integration with emerging technologies that is necessary for a complete solution that will serve your business goals. The time to start considering how changes in technology will impact your network purchases is now. It can start by having a conversation with Juniper.  For more information contact your account manager or see this link.


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